McCullen v Coakley

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: June 24, 2013
  • Case #: 12-1168
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 708 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2013)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether Massachusetts’s selective exclusion law, which makes it a crime for persons to “enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk” within thirty-five feet of an entrance, exit, or driveway of a “reproductive health care facility” unless the person is an “employee or agent” of the facility acting within the scope of their employment, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Massachusetts’s legislature revised a statue that made it a criminal offense to “enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk” near a reproductive health care facility (RHCF). The statute included a fixed thirty-five foot buffer zone around all entrances, exits, and driveways of a RHCF. Petitioner filed suit alleging that the statute enabled viewpoint discrimination of free speech and violates the overbreadth doctrine. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district courts ruling that the statute did not violate the First Amendment holding that the statute was viewpoint and content neutral as well as meeting a valid time, place, and manner regulation.

Petitioner contends that the Massachusetts’s statute is not content neutral because it allows for speech supporting abortions within the zone around a RHCF but prohibits speech against alternatives to abortion and distinguishes between RHCF employees and non-employees. Petitioner also contend that the Court of Appeals incorrectly applied the holding from Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703 (2003), arguing that Hill was narrowly tailored to prevent unwanted physical approaches and “violence and aggressive behavior” towards RHCF clients from all persons regardless of the viewpoint or content of their speech. The petitioners also contend that the Massachusetts’s statute does not offer a reasonable alternative to the time, place, and manner restriction imposed by the statute. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether Massachusetts’s selective exclusion law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

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